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Updated: February 22, 2011 15:40 IST

Athirappilly project threatens hornbills

Mini Muringatheri
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A Great hornbill near its nest. Photo : Special Arrangement
The Hindu A Great hornbill near its nest. Photo : Special Arrangement

‘They are endemic to low elevation forests in limited locations of South India and Sri Lanka'

If you trek deep into the Athirappilly-Vazhachal forests in the Southern Western Ghats, chances are that you may hear, from up in the canopy of trees, a heavy whooshing sound – somewhat similar to that of a jet airplane. If you are lucky, you will catch a glimpse of a magnificent bird, the Great Hornbill. But if the 163-MW Athirappilly hydroelectric project proposed by the Kerala State Electricity Board comes through, these unique birds might vanish from these forests.

The survival of the hornbills hangs in the balance as the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Committee, led by environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, is set to submit its report on the environmental impact of the Athirappilly project by the end of March. If the committee approves the project, it will lead to the submergence of the hornbills' habitat.

The unique low-elevation (180 m MSL) riparian forest in the Athirappilly-Vazhachal area is the only location where you can find all the four South Indian species of hornbills — the Great Hornbill (the State Bird of Kerala), Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, and the Indian Grey Hornbill. Their resonating ‘tock.tock.tock' calls and the whooshing sound of their wing flaps have earned them the local name ‘Malamuzhakki' (the one that creates an echo in the hillsides).

“The Athirappilly-Vazhachal forests are the only available nesting location for the threatened Malabar Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros coronatus) in Kerala. They are endemic to low elevation forests in limited locations of South India and Sri Lanka,” says K.H. Amitha Bachan, a researcher and consultant to Kerala Forest Department and the World Wildlife Fund-India Ecological Monitoring Programme. The other location where this species is found is the Dandeli area in Karnataka.

The prime threat to the species, apart from increased poaching, is lack of suitable nesting trees and feed. Mr. Bachan says that hornbills have an umbilical relationship with the rain forests. Forests undisturbed by humans are crucial for their survival. The natural hollows of high-canopy trees serve as their nests. They are extremely sensitive to disturbances. Though their long bills prevent binocular vision, their sharp eyes and good hearing alert them to the slightest movement on the forest floor. “During our surveys, we located as many as 57 nests in the Vazhachal Forest Division. We found three Great Hornbill nests in a two-kilometre stretch at a 200-metre altitude. This could be one of the last remaining low altitude riparian evergreen forests in the Western Ghats.”

Please stop the project and save these magnificent birds.

from:  Balamahesh P
Posted on: Mar 1, 2011 at 20:02 IST

The Athirappilly project should definitely be stopped. Campaign will do good to make more people aware of bad happenings like this.

from:  Vikash Kumar Gupta
Posted on: Feb 22, 2011 at 14:26 IST

This project must be stopped

from:  Santhosh
Posted on: Feb 21, 2011 at 12:59 IST

I'm just wordless to describe this pathetic human idea. Where are such things going to end-up? Feel frustrated. Lets join hands and help these birds. Will start a signature campaign.

from:  Merlin
Posted on: Feb 21, 2011 at 09:28 IST

Good idea to start a campaign on line Prem!

from:  Col. Jason Peter
Posted on: Feb 21, 2011 at 09:05 IST

Instead of asking the Hindu to start a campaign, we should do this, using online resources to start with. Thanks to the Hindu for bringing this to the notice of the wider world. Please check in the coming days on Facebook for a save Athirapilly hornbill page

from:  Prem
Posted on: Feb 20, 2011 at 11:38 IST

Someone's hand is itching every now and then. Earlier it was the Pooyamkutty project. And in almost all of them some of the most precious forests are involved. Government can only see the electricity generation as a source of income, why don't they see that the ecological diversity is also an asset and if put to proper use could be more yeilding. 163 MW is such a meagre amount. Can't we try some other sources of electricity including the renewable ones. Go ahead...destroy nature, our turn will be next.

from:  Ratheesh. R
Posted on: Feb 20, 2011 at 05:18 IST

Can The Hindu start a savethegreathornbill.com and start collecting signatures from all over the world to stop this project ? Because it is easy for media to generate greater awareness than individuals.

from:  Raj Lakshmanan
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 12:48 IST

Kerala can more than manage without this 163 MW energy from the proposed Athirappilly project, if it concentrates on other renewal sources of energy such as Wind and Solar. Kerala gets good number of sunny and rainy days thorugh out the year. Political will and adequate fund allocations, by state and centre, to companies like BHEL, HMT, etc. can help them come out with gadgets for tapping these sources. For long we human beings have taken upon ourselves the enire right on the environment. Now nature has already started showing its displeasures through climate change. It is better for us to change for the better for benefit of all living beings.

from:  KVS Kumar
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 12:32 IST

A host of hydroelectric projects are on the anvil in China, India, Brazil to mention a few countries with massive dams already existing. They are using these to produce goods and services at very poor final delivered efficiency. If the efficiency of use of this poor delivery is considered, it becomes a measly 1 to 2 percent. One of the prime consequences of such 'development' is direct heating up the earth resulting in climate change. Thus worldwide earthquakes and increase of rainfall is one result of this glaring lacuna in meeting water needs. This increase- surge of intense rainfall in a very short time -measured in hours-cloud bursts- are resulting in dam designs gone totally awry- with the concerned authorities scrambling to the Supreme Court to raise the dam heights to prevent catastrophic dam failures-as happened in the case of Tehri Dam this monsoon. Remember two instances this monsoon where disaster of unspeakable proportions took place -when the Indus breached in Pak and cloud burst occurred at Ladakh. Even today the total dam storage due to rainfall has been some 130 percent of last year's and 147 percent of the last ten years average! Many dams are being operated in an all or none manner- flash water release and flash build up of storage without concern for the people affected and earthquakes bound to occur deterministically as a result. Say yes to backbreaking millennia long people's cooperatives based, ecologically based, analogous reforestation of the whole world and drastic life style change or become extinct-all life! Vyasa of the Mahabharata stated explicitely the horrendous Pralaya which is visiting us: 4 to 5 billion humans will lose their lives in the transition taking place from the present Kaliyuga to the age of truth or Kritayuga. I curse the people who continue with this modern civilisation to be born as good people chained to push back the evil instead of being born as scamsters and cutthroats.

from:  Ramaswami Kumar
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 11:50 IST

What would these great hornbills have commented to this article if they were able to do so? Had they done so, they would have been labelled as anti-national and anti-development creatures standing as an obstacle to 'greater common good'.

from:  P K Anand
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 11:20 IST

Progress should never occur at the cost of our fellow living creatures, least those which threaten the very existence of our own State Bird. The land which has been blessed by great ornithologists like Shri K.K.Neelakantan (Induchoodan) should not sacrifice these birds for a power project.Our state is blessed with ever so many natural resources which if used judiciously can give rise to alternate sources of power .If corruption and red tapism lie forgotten, we can implement better eco-friendly sustainable plans for a rising economy. Development must always be sustainable.

from:  Gayathri.K
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 09:46 IST

Please dont have any project in Athirapally - it's god gift! Global warming is destroying the world.

from:  Shankar
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 08:34 IST

We can't keep destroying pristine flora - we'll destroy ourselves

from:  Rohit
Posted on: Feb 19, 2011 at 06:08 IST
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